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COVID-19 tackles PCHS football

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Program suspended as three people test positive

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    COVID-19 numbers for Putnam County and surrounding areas.

The COVID-19 pandemic continued its march through Putnam County this week, and it was not picky about its targets.

Late Monday evening, The Eatonton Messenger confirmed the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was detected in positive testing for three people in the high school’s football program with a fourth person showing symptoms.

At approximately 4 p.m. Monday, the second and third person were confirmed as positive after the initial person was confirmed earlier in the day around 1 p.m.

In an immediate response to protect the health and safety of the entire football program, Putnam County athletic director Paul Stokes and school and school system administration made the decision to immediately suspend all activities of the football program until Aug. 10.

Coronavirus in Putnam County

  • 54 new cases this week
  • Four deaths reported for the week
  • High school football practice suspended until Aug. 10

In a short, prepared statement, Stokes confirmed in an email to The Messenger that, “On Monday, July 27, Putnam County High School received confirmation of three positive cases of COVID-19 within its football program. We have identified one additional person who has shown signs or symptoms. At this time, we have elected to suspend football practice until Aug. 10.

“The safety, health and welfare of the students, staff, and community are the highest priority. We will continue to monitor the situation and will notify the public of any changes.”

Elsewhere in the continuing battle with COVID-19, which has claimed 3,509 lives in the state of Georgia, Putnam County had 54 new, confirmed cases, bringing the county total to 330. Sadly, there were four deaths reported for the week that brought the county fatalities to 17 after the county remained constant with 12 deaths for the last several weeks.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), the new fatalities of the virus included an 82-year-old male, a 68-year-old female, an 81-year-old male, a 71-year-old female and another 71-year-old female in the order they were reported by the DPH.

At Putnam General Hospital (PGH), a 25-bed intermediate critical access hospital without a true Intensive Care Unit (ICU), the hospital has only three intermediate Intensive Care Unit rooms while the facility is averaging the testing of nearly 100 patients a week for COVID-19 thanks, in part, to a new “quick test” program rolled out in May.

“It only takes 45 minutes, so we could rely on the results used for in-patient and emergency room testing while we still send out other tests to outside services,” said Pam Hopkins, laboratory director at PGH. “We only have one piece of equipment, and it takes about an hour to fully process where we had been waiting five days for results on a critically ill patient while being affected by not knowing whether they were positive or negative. Since May, it has made a huge impact.”

In the medical profession during the COVID-19 pandemic, so many healthcare heroes have emerged to do whatever was necessary to protect patients and save lives. At PGH, Hopkins’ team of 13 lab staff members have met and exceeded the bar of the unsung heroes of the virus crisis.

“We have a fantastic staff here in the lab,” she explained with a proud look emanating from a set of twinkling eyes from behind her mask. “I’ve been in the lab for 45 years, and this is one of the best groups I’ve ever worked with. They are working long hours, and they are very dedicated in making sure the tests are completed and the results get to where they need to be.

“They have worked many extra hours and they have had direct contact with patients that are COVID positive. They are very much front line heroes.”

PGH Chief Executive Officer Alan Horton is equally proud of the entire staff at the hospital, especially in light of the small hospital capacity and the never-so-slight drive to achieve the highest level of service for the needs of any patients who come through the doors at the Eatonton hospital.

“The pandemic has been very taxing on all our employees that are subject to catching COVID and taking it home to loved ones, and our main goal is to protect the safety of our employees and patients,” Horton said. “We started with a lot of new procedures and processes to protect everyone and we have not had any employee here catch the virus as a result of employment.

“This has been a real challenge for us and we are all dedicated to taking care of our patients and employees involved. They have stepped up and are coming to work every day because that is what they want to do. Our job is to take care of our patients in our community and we’ve all done that.”